VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points and James Bell had 14 to lead No. 14 Villanova to a 77-54 win over Penn on Wednesday night.
JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points and the Wildcats (8-0) overcame a 7:29 scoreless stretch to open the second half, winning their first game as a ranked team in almost two years.
The Wildcats catapulted from unranked to 14th this week, the first time they cracked the Top 25 since they were No. 19 in the Feb. 28, 2011, poll. Within a span of about 24 hours, Villanova defeated No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa to win the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend in the Bahamas.
Miles Jackson-Cartwright led Penn (2-5) with 17 points and Darien Nelson-Henry had 12.
Villanova beat the Quakers for the 11th straight time.
The Wildcats dominated so much in the first half that it hardly mattered they didn’t score their first point of the second until the 12:31 mark. Even with the drought, Penn couldn’t cut the gap under double digits.
Penn finally made it a nine-point game with 10 minutes left. Hilliard scored Villanova’s first field goal with 9:54 to go, then made one of two free throws off a turnover to make it 53-41. The Wildcats missed 14 of their first 15 shots in the second half, yet still led by nine.
Kris Jenkins hit Villanova’s ninth 3-pointer to give the offense a needed boost. That stretched the lead to 15, and the Wildcats closed it out for their fifth home win.
Villanova struggled shooting in its final two tournament games on Paradise Island, including a 39 percent effort against the Jayhawks. Ryan Arcidiacono bailed out the Wildcats in that one with a winning 3-pointer, but he missed his first eight 3-point attempts against the Quakers.
The Wildcats had fun reminders from their weekend in the Bahamas, including a highlight video of every clutch shot that won them the championship, then a trophy presentation at halftime
Penn got a 20-minute crash course in just what made the Wildcats so successful on the island.
Hilliard and Bell, the tournament MVP, opened the game with 3s and Josh Hart nailed one for a 17-6 lead. Dylan Ennis made a steal at halfcourt, then was pummeled by Penn’s Julian Harrell on the drive to the basket. Ennis made one of two free throws, then sank another 3-pointer on the possession for a 24-8 lead.
Jenkins joined in the 3-point fun, helping Villanova get off to a 7-of-15 start from outside the arc and a 29-9 lead.
The Wildcats had nine assists on their first nine baskets and kept the Ivy League Quakers from generating any offense.
Then Jackson-Cartwright turned his 3-point game into a pop-a-shot contest. The 6-foot-3 guard nailed four 3s in a matter of minutes to slice the gap to 35-24.
The Wildcats held off Jackson-Cartwright’s surge and used a huge advantage at the free throw line (14 of 17 to 1 of 3) to lead 46-28 at the break.
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